The Fourth Doctor returns in a new series of audio adventures adapted from Doctor Who Magazine’s comic strip. Having never read the original strips, I was excited to see what all the hype was about, and these two stories definitely delivered! Read on to find out what I thought of each story.
“Doctor Who and the Iron Legion” adapted by Alan Barnes
The first of the two stories in the set is Doctor Who and the Iron Legion, adapted from the story by Pat Mills and John Wagner, and it’s absolutely fantastic! Set in an alternate universe where the Roman Empire didn’t fall, it’s packed with creativity: a truly unique story!
We begin in the quiet village of Stockbridge, where we’re introduced to villagers Viv (Esther Hill) and Doug (Steve Hansell), whose journey we follow throughout the story as they’re kidnapped by robot romans and taken to a futuristic version of Rome. Of course, they soon encounter the Doctor (Tom Baker), and this is where the adventure really gets going.
Before I go on, can I just say how fantastic Tom Baker is in this? This is definitely my favourite Fourth Doctor audio; he’s just so well written here. Funny, friendly and absolutely bonkers, this is the character at his absolute best. We even get to hear what’s going on inside his head for a few moments, as he flicks through a list of the alien races he’s encountered before in an attempt to identify the foe he’s facing in this story!
The sound design in this story is also on point, with Alistair Lock bringing to life the grinding voice of General Ironicus (played masterfully by Brian Protheroe), the roars of the creatures in the Hyp-Arena and the marching Roman army with flair. The music’s great too, making this a truly fantastic auditory experience.
Overall, this is a great first foray into the world of the Doctor Who comic strip; a great script made better with a fantastic cast and fabulous sound design.
“Doctor Who and the Star Beast” adapted by Alan Barnes
The second story in the set introduces Rhiane Starbuck as the Fourth Doctor’s companion Sharon Davies, chronicling her encounter with the mysterious alien Beep the Meep (Bethan Dixon Bate) and how that leads to her first meeting with our favoirite Time Lord. Starbuck is immediately likeable as Sharon, and I hope we hear more from her in the future.
Sharon’s joined by the sci-fi obsessed Fudge, played compellingly by Ben Hunter, and his mum (Sian Reeves). This large cast of supporting characters and domestic setting reminded me somewhat of modern Doctor Who, particularly the episodes where we go back to Earth and meet the companion’s family and friends. Not only does this ground what might otherwise be quite a farfetched story, but it also helps to better establish the character of Sharon.
The plot of this story isn’t perhaps as gripping as that of the Iron Legion, but this is still such a great story, fizzing with humour and fun. Doctor Who and the Star Beast is definitely another of the best Big Finish Fourth Doctor audios.
I also wanted to talk about the cover art, which Will Brooks has done an absolutely excellent job on. Absolutely unique as covers go, the art here emulates the original comics by Dave Gibbons, hearkening back to the original format of the stories while looking sleek and modern at the same time. These are really some of my favourite Big Finish covers ever, and make this fantastic set even better than it already is.
This is an absolutely fantastic boxset, and everyone involved should be highly praised for putting it together. From Alan Barnes‘s great adaptations of the comics to Tom Baker‘s stellar performance (quite possibly his best), everything about this set is just brilliant, and as such is thoroughly recommended.
The Comic Strip Adaptations is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com